MAUI, HI — President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden visited Maui, Hawaii, on Monday to meet the survivors and survey the damage from the wildfires, the deadliest in U.S. history.
Biden surveyed the damage in Lahaina and gave remarks near a more than 100-year-old banyan tree that stood as the lone tree to survive the fires.
“Today it’s burned, but it’s still standing,” Biden said. “Trees survive for a reason. I believe it’s a powerful, a very powerful symbol, of what we can and will do to get through this crisis.”
“The country grieves with you, stands with you, and will do everything possible to help you recover, rebuild and respect culture and traditions,” Biden said.
He then referred to the tree, using it as a sign of hope and strength for the region.
“The fire cannot reach its roots,” he added. “That’s Maui. That’s America.”
At 114 people died in the wildfires with 27 of them being identified, with families of 11 of them notified, according to Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen.
“I will do everything in my power to help Maui recover and rebuild from this tragedy,” Biden said in a statement ahead of the trip. “And throughout our efforts, we are focused on respecting sacred lands, cultures, and traditions.”
Biden signed a major disaster declaration for Hawaii this month that made federal aid funding available to help begin the recovery process.
The President’s visit comes after critics took aim for a long period of silence after the fires.
Biden’s aides have pushed back on the criticism by pointing out the President’s communication with FEMA leadership, Hawaii’s congressional delegation, and its governor as proof of his engagement on the matter.
The President also announced federal aid to Hawaii, including FEMA’s approvals for 50,000 meals, 75,000 liters of water, and 10,000 blankets.
“We’re with you for as long as it takes,” Biden said Monday.